Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

Year: 2014 (page 1 of 2)

My Good Samaritan

One of my most prayed prayers since losing Joel has been that Jesus would come be my Good Samaritan; that He would bind up my gaping wounds and pour in the healing oil of His Holy Spirit into my crushed heart.

Sometimes I feel Him take my hand and the warm oil of His Holy Spirit rushing in, others I feel like I am drowning, alone in a sea of tears.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  Psalm 34:18

In the beginning… God introduced Himself as Creator. It’s such an important concept; one the enemy of our souls has fought so hard to take from us.

He created us
In His own image.
He KNOWS us.
He LOVES us.
We have purpose.
The Eternal One has
Breathed us to life.
We were created for Eternity.

No one KNOWS us like our Creator does.
To love someone you have to know them.

Jesus
came
incarnate
to know
to make Abba known
to experience our suffering
to transform it into redemption.

One of the things that has brought healing into my life has been creating; making quilts, needle arts, drawing, painting signs, scrapbooking, and digital art. There is something about taking time to see and to touch created things while listening to my Creator and allowing Him to create something new through me that is healing.

One of the first things that I created after losing Joel was a bracelet. I made it using beads from a broken necklace and two bracelets I seldom wore. Something new created out of brokenness. I call it and another bracelet that I made and now wear often my chains of hope.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 6:19-20

My recreated bracelet wraps around my wrist like a tourniquet representing the tourniquet my Good Samaritan is wrapping around my wounded heart.

The stone and glass beads create a band of color that reminds me that there is still color in the world after all the color leaked out of my broken heart and all that was left was gray and muddled. I only recently noticed how muddled even it’s colors are.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

There is key on one side representing the key to my heart given to my Lord and a guitar pick on the other (for my heavenly guitar player) decoupaged with portions of

Psalm 84
How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints.
for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out
and sing for joy to the living God…

and

Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said, “Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Together they create a set of wings for my soul.

Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Psalm 55:6

Late last summer, I felt the Lord drawing me to start painting as a creative way to heal. A short time later, I learned about a new Facebook group started by Shanna Noel of shannanoel.blogspot.com that is creating worshipful art journaling in the margins of their Bibles.

It has become my happy place. 7000 members who love the Lord and His Word and purposely set aside time to prayerfully meditate His word and express their hearts to Him in art. 7000 members and growing. Many tell prodigal stories of reading the Word for the first time.. and others share what they are now teaching their children; happy joy.

I bought myself some watercolors and pens with my birthday money. And yesterday I created my first painting. I amazed myself, and that doesn’t happen often. James was impressed and encouraged me to include my bracelet in my painting because it is “me.” Judi said I needed lessons. Ouch. With that repeated, I won’t be pointing out my mistakes.  🙂

“Deeper” by Delirious? had been on my heart for several days. When I first heard it over 10 years ago, it inspired me to take the kids down to our neighborhood pool, face my fear, and jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool.  Not exactly the smartest thing.. because I really “don’t know how to swim” but how I long to dive deeper into God.

It’s a painting of what I am choosing to believe.  Mostly what I feel is the drowning and the trying without success.. not a lot of the holding, and lifting, and saving.

Although, I had imagined Him rescuing me many times, actually painting God’s arm was a truly spiritual experience.

I felt His presence;
His flesh pushing through the heavens for me.

Painting was an act of lifting up my colorful chains of hope.. of pointing the wings of my soul towards my Help and He responded by giving me a little deeper revelation of Himself.

Psalm 63
1 O God, you are my God;
earnestly will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
my whole body longs for You
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen You in the sanctuary,
beheld your power and glory.
3 Your steadfast love is better than life,
so, my lips will praise you.
4 I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 You satisfy more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

6 I lie awake thinking of You,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 My whole being follows hard after You
and clings closely to You;
Your right hand holds me securely.

Thankful for my Creator Abba, Who so loved me that He sent Jesus to became flesh and rescue me.

Love,

Jenny

My Cautiously Thankful When it Comes to the Temporarily Temporal Heart

This is our last night in the Smokys. My mom, dad, sisters and their families left for Texas this morning. The rest of us leave for “home” (Alabama) in the morning. Seeing our family this year in December for Josh’s graduation was a special treat. We don’t normally see each other until the spring or fall when the 1000 miles of roads between us are less likely to ice over.

Have you ever thought about the connection to Jesus’ birth and the “longing for home” theme in so many of the Christmas songs? I’ve worked hard at ignoring the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” songs over the years and taught myself to be thankful for just us.. the six of us.

For many years I was able to ignore the bad.. the hard.. the sad.. and the lonely and work at cultivating a thankful heart by focusing on the good. I was able for the most part to be a blissfully happy and thankful version of myself. I was that blissfully happy and thankful person that last day between Thanksgiving and Christmas before everything came crashing down. I was standing beside Joel in the kitchen just a few hours before, admiring the person he was becoming and expressing to the Lord with a thankful heart, “I like him so much.  I feel honored just standing in his presence.”

Shortly after losing Joel, I had what I called a “Pollyanna” anointing and was overflowing with thankfulness. I was thankful that my son was the only one who died at the birthday party.. that my other children were okay, and so on. I had guarded my thankful heart as one of my most prized possessions for many years and had almost envied Pollyanna’s thankful view of the world in spite of the losses she’d suffered. I didn’t realize I’d have to suffer so much to experience that same anointing.

A few days after losing Joel, my shattered heart ran out of thankful juice and I lost all sense of hope. How could I hope when there was a possibility that everything could come crashing down again? This bad/hard/sad/lonely was too big and painful to ignore. I worked constantly at keeping my focus on Jesus and being thankful that He came, but I’d lost a part of me; the blissfully happy part. I was now broken and so wounded; vulnerable and lost. Mike and I chose to stand together in trust and obedience in the midst of it all.

Our first Thanksgiving without Joel, I earnestly searched for something “safe” that I could be thankful for. Something that wouldn’t crash my world again, if lost. I finally decided on my KIA Soul. It’s my first car. Before it, I drove the family van. I really do like my little car. It’s fun to drive. It’s become my safe place to express all my deepest sorrows. I picked the green one because it’s easy to find in a parking lot. And now that Joel lives in Heaven, it reminds me of him. Green was his color. Green is the color of everlasting life, and I like being reminded of him and our eternal reward. If something were to happen to my KIA, it wouldn’t be big deal. It is “safe” to be thankful for. I wouldn’t be crushed if I lost it.

I am slowly finding other “safe” things to be thankful for in the reality of this broken world that I am being forced to live in. Things that God is using to slowly heal my heart:

Being thankful for my “Soul” was the “vehicle” that helped me find a way back to the anointing that bubbled up from my thankful heart those first few days. I don’t believe I will find that blissfully happy self here on earth again. I’ve been smitten with a homesickness that can only be cured by my real home. I can no longer push aside the groanings that now resonate in my inner man, but I can be thankful for the things He gives me grace to be thankful for in the midst of the longing.

Romans 8:22-24 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”

I am hopeful that learning to lean into the longing and stay connected to my still wounded – slowly healing – cautiously thankful when it comes to the temporarily temporal heart will yield lasting fruit. Hopeful that facing the bad/hard/sad/lonely here will lead to a firmer grasp on our real Heavenly hope to come.

1 Corinthians 15:53-54 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

The “longing for home” theme in the Christmas songs has struck a chord in our hearts this season like never before. The “Home” we really want to be in is the one where our family will be whole again. It still feels “unsafe” to say I am thankful for my family (although, secretly in my heart I am). So, this week I chose to be thankful for what I was able to be thankful for: “time with my family” knowing it would come to a temporary end either when they drove home to Texas today, went back to work and school, or when another one of us goes to our real home in Heaven.

Maybe this verse is why Christ’s birth is connected to so many “longing for home” songs.

John 14:1-4 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.

6-7 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

Love,

Jenny

Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Praying that you are in good health and good cheer. We are very excited to have a new college graduate in our home this week, even though he has several more years of school left before he has his masters and possibly doctorate. 🙂  We are very proud of Joshua.  It’s been a long hard road.

It’s been a hard year for us.. missing Joel.. pushing through the heartbreak.. searching for and choosing to trust God in the middle of it all. And I know that it’s been a hard year for many of my friends and family who are going though their own hardships this year.  You are in my heart and prayers.  I love you dearly.


I came across a poem I wrote a couple of days before the sentencing of the young man who murdered our Joel while praying about what to write this year and felt a tug on my heart to share it with you:

Come
Tuesday April 9, 2013

My old friend, the Morning, now stings with
Reality that I so long to see erased.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Tuesday, only Tuesday, how the days drag on.
When will I see your face?

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Tears and more tears; sorrow clouds Joy.
But is not It’s undoing; only hate.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Lord, Jesus, you alone are my hope, my joy, my song,
The Morning, that I so long to see dawn.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Only Your loving kindness can make my heart,
my soul, my mind new.  Come.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Come with Your peace.
Come flood me with Your joy.

Come let Love begin It’s healing work
On the ache from deep with in.  Come.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how glad I am that it’s not our place to judge or as Mike said, “or to even ‘fix’ people.” Our ONLY job is to LOVE them. Mike and I were thankful for the roles the justice system, the judge and the district attorney played in our case. We didn’t want the responsibly of judging or deciding the sentence. None of that would have brought Joel back. Our only roles were to love and to offer the forgiveness that Jesus extended to us and we were thankful for the grace God gave us to enable us to do just that.

I’ve also been thinking about the way Jesus loved us.. by entering into our world.. into our suffering and SUFFERING with us. It’s that kind of love that keeps me going each day. Seeing Jesus strip off his glory, put on humanity and submit himself to suffer and die for me.. it.. woos me. It’s a whole new kinda of glorious. It’s a beautiful, crazy kind of love with abandon like none else.

He didn’t judge us or fix us first.. He SO loved us.. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I read a devotion last week about Jesus’ bold love for Zacchaeus.  He was a scoundrel, a liar and a thief. Not only that, he was one of the ringleaders. Jesus never even mentioned any of those things to him. He led with, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19).  He called him by NAME and invited HIMSELF in.

The crowd was horrified,

“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’”

But look at the results!

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

“Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house… for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

Jesus’ bold, uncondemning love rocked Zacchaeus’ world. All the years of hatred and scorn from his peers did nothing for Zacchaeus. Jesus’ seeking and loving and climbing onto His own tree did it all. That’s the kind of love.. the seeking.. saving.. glory shedding.. mind-blowing.. sacrificial kind of love.. that heals us and makes us whole.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

That’s what I am in training for. I am broken. I miss up a lot. But I am learning to see Jesus looking at me not with disapproval, but with the kind of love that rocked Zacchaeus’ world. And I am learning to see the way He looks at the broken, hurting people around me.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

We need saving. We need His love. We need the Healer of the Brokenhearted to come and make us whole.  He is our only hope. We can not fix things.. especially ourselves. All we can do is trust and wait and obey in the waiting.

Isaiah 30:18-21 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Much love and prayers..
and wishing you a Merry Christmas.

The Colemans

Life Verses Life Lessons

I woke yesterday from a residual bad dream with a desire to find a new life verse.  I have had a few. When I was a struggling in my role as a young mother, the Lord directed me to

Titus 2:5: “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Through holding on to those instructions, I learned to value a calling that I never imagined would be my own.

For many years, I struggled through the lessons of

John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can don’t nothing.”

Then sometime before we moved to Alabama, the Lord began speaking to me about my need for the gift of joy and Psalms 16:11 became my verse:

”You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

I am thankful for preparations that the Lord has worked in my heart through those verses and years that have helped me through this nightmarish season.  Joy has been the backdrop for all the sorrow that I have experienced through losing Joel, and I acknowledge it as a precious gift from God.

There have been moments and days where the pain overwhelmed the joy and I wondered at God’s word to Paul that His grace was sufficient.  On those days, I held on to these verses:

Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the LORD and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, a whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

A few of those things I felt like I could do:

Trust in the Lord..
Feed on His faithfulness…
Be joyful in hope..

– I learned to trust that He would carry me through to the promise of Heaven.

Dwell in the land..
Patient in affliction..
Let perseverance finish its work…

–  The tougher set, but the hope above made it possible.

Faithful in prayer..

– There have been many days where the only prayers I could pray were groans and cries…

I won’t pretend that I was able to “Consider it pure joy.” There have been a few trials that I’ve been able to face with the joy of being made more like Jesus, but not this one.  I am not sure the death of your loved ones was meant to be included in “trials of many kinds.”  The Bible says that “Jesus wept” at the tomb of Lazarus.  He had hope: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He knew that in a few minutes he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  And still “He shouted for joy” at Lazarus tomb. No. Still “He wept.”

The kind of life verse I was longing for when I woke up from my nightmares yesterday was the kind that contained the word “SOON!”  Soon we’ll see Jesus and He will wipe away all my tears and all the wonderful no mores will become reality because this old I am experiencing will have passed away.

Hebrews 10:25 ..but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Revelation 22:20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

“Soon!” is the word that the Lord has been using to encourage me.  He endured the cross for the joy set before Him, and I endure my cross with the same hope for joy at His appearing. As we near the holidays and the second anniversary of Joel’s first day in Heaven, “Soon.” is the whisper that keeps me persevering.

Soon, I need to get off this computer and start cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but before I do I would like to share some pages I made for our family to read aloud together on Joel’s Heaven Day.  The verses speak of soon, and Jesus and of clouds and crowns.

I learned something new in my reading yesterday. Many scholars believe that the verses that speak of Jesus coming in the clouds are speaking of “the great cloud of witnesses.”  It opened my eyes to see past the puffy white things in the sky to something much greater surrounding my soon returning Jesus.

I had a coupon for half off a photo book at Walgreens that expired last night. You can find coupons like that often but with Joel’s day just around the corner, I rushed to finish it in time.  I am not completely happy with how they came out, but they will have to do for this year.  The photos were taken by my parents and I in the Tennessee mountains.  Feel free to use them to make your own Heaven Day book.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day
–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8

Running for that crown..

Love,

Jenny

Sally’s Last Day

Today is our beloved keeshound, Sally’s last day here on earth.  She’s 14 years old and has been unable to hold any food or water down since Monday.  We were told shortly after losing Joel that her kidney’s were beginning to fail.  To avoid finding myself in a crisis over the weekend, I found a vet that can put her to sleep in our home today after James returns home from work.  God has been gracious and given me a lot of peace about it and the kids are all in agreement.  It’s still going to be really hard… especially for Mike because her last turn for the worse happened while he’s in DC.  He’ll be back tonight sometime after 6 pm and she’ll be gone.

On Wednesday, I was thinking about Halloween essentially being a celebration of evil and death and how odd it was that Sally might die on Halloween.  I thought about how many people don’t even realize that it’s called “All Hallow’s Eve” because it’s the eve before “All Saint’s Day,” a day to remember the “hallowed” saints who’ve gone before us.  It’s as if our eyes have been veiled from glorious victory that the great cloud of witnesses now enjoys over death and instead of celebrating their lives and sacrifices for us, we have been tricked into celebrating evil and death itself.  It’s a terrible trick, and comes with the threats of missing out on the treats of playing dress up and way too much fun and candy.  It’s as if evil gives itself premature a victory party each year when SOON death itself will die.

What have done as a family for Halloween has evolved over the years.  When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my Dad learned about the origins of Halloween and started taking me “no-tricks-just-treating” and we passed out tracts instead of threats to the neighbors we visited.  So, most of my life I’ve known Halloween as more of a battle than a game.

When our kids were still babies and toddlers, the stores were just starting their crazy early jump the holiday bandwagon and I had no idea how to protect their eyes from the grotesque Halloween decorations that were invading not only the party shops but our local grocery stores.  The Lord used them for good though.  The Halloween before Josh turned 3, he asked Jesus in his heart because he was afraid of going to hell where all those scary creatures lived.  His questions revealed that he had been putting off giving his life to Christ because he was afraid that the moment he did God would take him away from me directly to Heaven.  He didn’t want to leave his mama. Josh has always been precocious that way.  🙂

Those first few years on All Hallow’s Eve, we were reluctant to open our front door and expose our small children to all those scary creatures that came trick-or-treating, so we hid in our house with the porch light turned off and enjoyed family Veggie Tale movie nights.  As the kids grew older and caught on to the fun that they were missing, turning out the porch light didn’t prove to be much protection.  Dressing up has always been a favorite for our kids.  They had a large tub of dress up clothes and played often.  I prayed for wisdom that year as our kids watched longingly out the window.

The following year our church had a harvest party.  I made Josh and James biblical costumes, dressed Joel in a baby out fit with a blue puppy on it and we ventured out on Halloween for the first time.  Josh now almost 6 years old dressed up as the prophet Balaam and James 3, as his talking donkey.  As our kids grew the harvest parties grew more extravagant and crowded, and a little impersonal.  It felt safe and fun, but I still felt like I was on the defensive instead of the offensive with Halloween.

About the time we adopted our dog, Sally, we started attending a Vineyard church in San Antonio, Texas which was a very small group/outreach oriented church.  There we discovered a whole new, personal approach to Halloween. Their small groups reached out to their neighborhoods through front yard harvest parties.  We lived in a great location for such a party and volunteered to host our small group’s party in our front yard.  For the first time ever, we found ourselves taking something the devil meant for evil and using it for good. We all loved it. The neighbors responded first with curiosity, and then with gratefulness.  We brought church and opportunities for relationships into the neighborhood.  They no longer had to go out and look for it.  We were each personally invested in the outreach.  It was something we did together as a family.  For me, it was like Halloween had been redeemed; instead of a day to tolerate or hide, it became a day to love our neighbors to Christ. We were able to take the idea with us to Florida, and enjoyed several years of front yard harvest outreaches.

In thinking about our past front yard harvest parties, I remembered that All Hallow’s Eve is Sally’s favorite holiday.  Sally loves it because she loves visitors.  Each trick-or-treater is greeted with an, “I am so glad you came to see me.  I am such an adorable puppy, aren’t I?  I love to be petted.” Then she drinks in the attention.  She has always lived and loved everyone with the joy and wonder of a puppy.

I am really going to miss her.  I am not sure about what happens when our pets die.  I know that horses, and lions, and lambs live in Heaven.  I know that we will be more than satisfied with the treasures God has laid up for us there.  I know that

“He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” Revelation 21:4.

I was telling my poor, sad Sally about how wonderful it’s going to be yesterday.  I tell myself often.  Then early this morning after checking on Sally, I tried to get a moment’s more sleep and had a dream/vision/flash and saw Sally seeing in color for the first time (earthly dogs are color blind).  It felt like God was saying that she’ll go to sleep here, then wake up to a world of living color.  I am so glad God lives outside of my box and I won’t be surprised if when we meet Joel in Heaven we find Sally by his side. 🙂

 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  Psalm 116:15

Wishing you a safe and happy All Hallow’s Eve!

Love,

Jenny

The Lost and Found Lamb

One of the oddest things for me about losing a child is how we as bereaved parents obsess over the lost one… doesn’t matter how many surviving children we have… the lost one is the one on our minds and hearts 24/7.  I’ve struggled with it… fought it.  I’ve tried to honor and enjoy the kids I still have here while I can… and yet the obsession hasn’t gone away.

When my kids were really little (I had 4 in under 6 years) and I took them all to the grocery store with me, I would continually count them… 1, 2, 3, 4… to make sure one hadn’t wondered away.  Often when one had wondered off, Joel was the one who was missing.

We lost him in Target once when he was four.  Have you ever lost a child in Target before? Your heart races.. you are in a panic… almost in tears… I can’t tell you how terrifying it is. Four minutes feels like a lifetime. We found him amongst the Christmas trees marveling at the bin of ornaments. He has always loved Christmas.

Another time we were coming out of HEB (our all time favorite Texas grocery store) and 1, 2, 3…  4 (Joel) was standing in the parking lot with his hand held up to the approaching cars like he had some crossing guard superpower and could make the cars stop for us to cross.
Again.. terrifying.

That’s where the obsession comes in… at terror. As a homeschool mom I was continually counting them at home, too: Josh is at the kitchen table doing his math, James is on the computer writing a paper, Joel is sitting on the couch reading his history book, and Judi is on the floor practicing her grammar.  1, 2, 3, 4.

As my four grew into young adults they chose to live at home, work and go to college locally (happy me). Counting grew a little more challenging: Josh is doing a lab, James is on his way home from work, Joel has to leave for work in an hour and Judi is teaching swim lessons.

1, 2, 3, 4.. all accounted for.

I had this 1, 2, 3, 4 thing so much in my mamma heart that I always hated pictures of only three of my kids …now all I can take are pictures of three. In those pictures one was missing.  Two kids in a picture was okay because the missing one wasn’t by themselves.

This is the last picture I have of the three boys together.  Josh and James are glad to be home with Joel and are telling him all their news.  Judi is teaching swim lessons at the Y.  I was so caught up in the joy of the boys enjoying each other that this photo never bothered me

I am counting them still. Sometimes I am halfway through before I realize what I am doing… and it’s too late to stop.

When I get to Joel now, I account him as happy in Heaven.

It’s been a little over 21 months since his first day in Heaven… and some days the thought brings me joy and others tears.

Lately, I have been struggling with what I am calling “frustrated love.”  I have opportunities to love the kids who are still with me.. cook for them.. celebrate their accomplishments… buy them clothes and little gifts, but I keep searching for Joel. He is missing… and I am longing for a way to show him that I love him.  If I am really honest, I am feeling somewhat jealous of our Heavenly Father.  He gets to be with Joel, to see him every day, and to shower him with gifts that I could never afford.

The day these feelings began pushing from my subconscious into my conscious the Lord reminded me of the story of the lost sheep:

Luke 15:4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

That part of the story has always bugged me… HE LEFT THE 99?!  What about them?  Are they wondering where He is?  Are they okay while He is gone?

I love the next verse though:

Luke 15:5 “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders.”

I want to be that sheep… the rescued one.

I want to see the joy on His face and rest on His shoulders.

I felt like God was saying to me through the story, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to feel guilty about obsessing over your lost lamb.  I AM like that, too.  I’d leave 99 at home and search for the one.  You are created in My image. And it’s okay.”

Some bereaved parents find comfort in the fact that their children aren’t really lost. They know their child is Heaven and refuse to use the word lost when referring to them.  I understand, but my heart counts 1, 2, 3, and then comes the terror … FOUR!!  Where is FOUR?  He is lost to me… no longer in my possession..  for now.  My heart searches endlessly for him even though my head knows that I am powerless to recover him… and that if I could, it would be wrong to take him from his happy joy in Heaven.

Until the day I join him there and the terror is washed away, I will ever be teaching my heart to rest in my search secure in my hope in Heaven, in His joy and upon His strong shoulders.

Love,

Jenny

 

Arrows Deep into My Heart

In the early mornings as I study the Word and worship, the Lord gently reveals places in my heart that are still broken; places that need healing that only He can give.  I journal them through quiet tears in an exercise of placing Brown Paper Packages (older post) all wrapped in string at His beautiful feet.

Once everything is journaled out, I am released to go about my day accomplishing the things I have the grace to do while continuing to worship with IHOP.  There were many months where the devastation of my heart was so wide and so deep that I spent whole days journaling and searching the Word for comfort, understanding and healing.  Not journaling meant leaving all those anguishes circling in my head like buzzards picking away at my brain and heart.

When I am in the solitude and privacy of my car, the true intensity of my suffering often shows itself. At home, I am rarely alone and even the brick walls are too thin for the piercing cries of my heart.  There are times when I am afraid to be alone in my car because I know somewhere deep inside that the pain is going to be overwhelming.  There have been times when I thought I was okay, focused on things ahead, and once down the road in my car the grief has jumped out in ambush.

Driving alone to church has been especially difficult.  There is the dreadful desolation of my heart lurking; waiting in the car for me, and then the “How are you?” greetings once I am there. It’s crazy how a casual greeting can pierce a grieving heart.  How do you answer a casual, “How are you?” in the normal 5 second allowance with red swollen eyes after just having an emotional meltdown in the car?  “Trying to hold it together long enough to get through the service.  Thank you?” When another grieving parent asks, it’s different because they understand that “Okay” means “Not falling apart at the moment.”

It has been important for me to not to pretend that I am something I am not.  When you are grieving, you feel a million emotions at once and not one of them is “Fine.” My desire has been to communicate honestly so that when others suffer they know that I can relate and I am willing to love them through it.  How can we help heal each other when concealing our suffering?

There were a few times when I was putting so much effort into just attending a service that I was caught off guard by the casual greetings. I would find myself trying to self evaluate and come up with an honest answer, my 5 seconds way past up, and think, “I was doing better before asked.”  Just recently, there was a day when it was all I could do to smile and nod.  It was awkward, but opening my mouth would have opened the floodgate of sobs. Once someone greeted me with, “It’s so good to see you.” and I thought, “Really?” and so wanted to just melt into their arms.

What does “Fine” mean anyway?  When anyone asked before losing Joel, I would mentally think through each of my four kids… if they were all healthy and doing okay, I was actually “Good.”  It didn’t matter that I’d lost my breasts to cancer and was still dealing with residual pain, or that I was having another allergic reaction to some unknown something, or that I was in that wonderful time of life where pre-menopause and PMS meet.  I was “Good” as long as my four were good.  Now I get halfway through my list and one is dead (has moved to Heaven).  I don’t even know how to evaluate any more.

At one point, I wished I could just hand out a picture of what my heart looked like in answer to the casual greetings and actually googled “broken heart.”  To my dismay, I basically found pictures that look like this:
Torn paper heart
Is that what most people think a broken heart looks like?!

It doesn’t even begin to describe the brokenness of my heart.  Torn paper doesn’t express the shatteredness; the shards of what was left of my heart with their sharp, painful edges; the muck and the mire of it; the literal breaking we felt in our hearts wave after wave.

 He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
The thought of my suffering and
hopelessness is bitter beyond words.
Lamentations 3:13

I have had to learn a whole new set of terminology in order to describe the state my own heart.

mire   mīr/
noun
1. a stretch of swampy or boggy ground.
soft and slushy mud or dirt.
synonyms:  mud, slime, dirt, filth, muck
2. a situation or state of difficulty, distress, or embarrassment from which it is hard to extricate oneself.

When we first lost Joel, Mike asked me how my hope was?  I answered, “What hope?” I didn’t even know what the word meant anymore.  At that point, I was still holding on to the fact that God loved me and thankfulness was pouring out of my heart.  I was thankful that Joel was the only one that died at the birthday party.  Josh had been shot at 4-5 times with only a scratch.  Judi had been invited but decided not to go.  I could have easily lost all three that night. Hope had been deferred till Heaven and my heart was close to death (Proverbs 13:12).  Along the way, questions about “Love always protects… Love never fails” from 1 Corinthians 13 found their way into my heart; akin to the devil’s “Is God really good?” questions in the garden.  I am sure.

Thoughts like: “This was not loving.  This was not protecting.  How can God be love and allow things like this?” were my constant companions.  The pain of my own inability to protect Joel was deafening.  My heart was so, so broken it could no longer produce even it’s essence; the thankfulness which had been it’s fragrance when first broken.  I so wanted to “give thanks in everything,” but how can you squeeze thanksgiving out of a heart that no longer feels loved?  How can you feel loved when you feel so unprotected?
lavendar vase
My heart before was filled with the fragrant joy I found in Him:
“Life is good!  God loves me!  God has good plans for our lives. I have a hope and a future. I am so thankful!”

My heart after:
“Life is hard; crushing; unbearable!  This does not feel like love.  ‘Hope,”good,’ and ‘plan’ are all four letter words tearing into my heart.  My only hope for a future is in Heaven. Why am I still here?”

brokenheart
From my journal on February 6th, 2014:

“I am in a very dark place near where Joel died.  Part of who I’ve been.. part of what I have believed.. part of what keeps me from remembering and believing this awful truth is also part of the reason Joel lost his life.  I trusted God implicitly with the lives of my family.  My whole life was a prayer of faith and trust and intercession for my husband and kids.  I basked in God’s love for me; lived a life of thanksgiving and praise and adoration for all He had given me and I taught my kids to live a life trusting that God in His goodness would lead and direct their paths and show them what to do and give them a good, abundant, long, meaningful life.

They believed me.  Joel believed me.  They believed God.  Joel believed God.  He trusted God.  He lived a life listening to and submitted to the Spirit.  When the young man came to the birthday party with a mask and an AK47 and shot at everyone at the party, Joel didn’t run because he wasn’t afraid.. because he was so full of God’s love for him that he didn’t believe that someone could be so hateful and irreverent of life.  He thought the shooter was playing a practical joke that he wasn’t using real bullets.  He didn’t run even just in case.. he believed implicitly.

The truth that I believed and trusted and taught.. that Joel believed and trusted and died is too unbelievable.. too horrible to believe.”

I still wonder if I had taught Joel to be more cunning and less trusting …if it would have saved his life.  We don’t know if there was a moment before he moved towards the shooter that he realized that he was using real bullets and had to be stopped.

    God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. 2 Samuel 22:3

The one good that I have hoped would come out of my suffering was that I could be honest about my struggles and learn how to offer comfort and encouragement to others who are going through hard things. I wanted to learn how to persevere and have hope, peace and joy while going though trials …how to love and feel loved in the midst of suffering.  And I was failing miserably on the feeling loved part.

O thou who dry’st the mourner’s tear,
How dark this world would be,
If, when deceived and wounded here,
We could not fly to Thee!

The friends, who in our sunshine live,
When winter comes are flown’
And he who has but tears to give
Must weep those tears alone.

But Thou wilt heal that broken heart,
Which, like the plants that throw
Their fragrance from the wounded part,
Breathes sweetness out of woe.

When joy no longer soothes or cheers,
And e’en the hope that threw
A moment’s sparkle o’er our tears
Is dimmed and vanished too;

Oh! who would bear life’s stormy doom,
Did not thy wing of love
Come, brightly wafting through the gloom
Our peace-branch from above?

Then sorrow, touched by Thee, grows bright
With more than rapture’s ray’
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day!

~ Thomas Moore, 1779-1852

We learned to transfer our hope from this world to the next and choose “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15.  Our choices were to choose to be content and trust Him where we are, or choose a very dark place of not trusting.  Choosing to trust, to believe we are loved when it doesn’t feel like love, and to keep an eternal perspective, has been our battle… And I believe it is the battle we all face in this world.

We have to choose to believe:

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  …We hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.  Romans 8:18, 25

The constant cry of my heart has been that God would be my Good Samaritan, bind up my wounds and pour in the oil of His Holy Spirit into the broken places in my heart.

   The Lord gives healing to the brokenhearted and binds up their griefs.  Psalm 147:3

In the midst of my brokenness, God has continually reminded me that He is a wounded healer, that He understands our pain and suffering, and that our suffering is not ours alone but apart of the fellowship of His.  It so encourages me that when Jesus faced His time of suffering that He said things like, ”My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” and “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” And that the one who said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” also said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  Psalm 34:18

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.  Isaiah 61:3

It took REALLY long time before I started feeling like God was healing me. I have so much more healing to go, but I am encouraged by even the smallest progress worked in me and thankful that He is walking with me through my hard days.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I’ve learned that it is really important to stay “rooted and grounded” in God’s love; feel it or not, to keep an eternal perspective, and to hold the Word up to the devil’s, “Is God really good?” questions because:

    Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

Still “Finding Joy in Him” (Really.),

Love,

Jenny

Remembering While Daring to Hope

I have heard several messages recently about letting the past go and moving toward the future.  I am a listener.  I am often straining to hear what the Lord is saying; working to keep my heart soft, pliable, broken in His capable hands.  With all my heart, I want to hear what He is saying.

Something inside me says that this message is just too simplified; that something is missing.  There is some truth to it.  We don’t want to get stuck in unforgiveness or bitterness. We don’t want to allow our past to hold us back from reaching our potential future,

BUT there are things we need to learn while in
the midst of our trials that will prepare us for our future:

So don’t try to
get out of anything
prematurely.
Let it do its work
so you will become mature
and well developed,
not deficient in any way.
James 1:4

And although the moment in time that I lost Joel is in the past, the truth of the present is that I am still very much in the midst of the trial of learning to live without him.  He was my baby for 20  years… the pain of missing him doesn’t disappear overnight.  I am not sure it ever really goes away.

“The act of living is different all through.  Her absence is like the sky, spread all over everything.”  C.S. Lewis.

Philippians 3:13-14 is a great verse that is often misquoted:

”But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is talking about forgetting the self-accomplishments that he took so much pride in before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. He doesn’t forget his suffering or trials.  He often recounts them, uses them to encourage the saints, and even boasts of them:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This verse keeps coming to my mind:

My soul is weary
with sorrow;
strengthen me
according to Your Word.
Keep me from
lying to myself;
be gracious and
teach me Your ways.
Psalm 119:28-9

The struggle between lying to myself (telling myself that I am okay), forcing myself forward in my own strength and trusting God to heal me and move me forward in His perfect timing and strength is amplified by the message of “let the past go.”

The Holy Spirit’s strong word to me has been, “REST.”  It takes great perseverance to give it all to Him, to rest, to hear the truth… to understand the truth… to abide in His ways.

When I hear new grieving parents tell their stories of child loss, I re-live mine.  I feel the need to remember; not to stay stuck, but to remember.  I am good at forgetting.  I like living in my dream world where no one does anything wrong and no one gets hurt; where pain is a faint memory and there is only good to come.

This has been different.  Forgetting this loss leaves me open to being ambushed by remembering.  The truth of the present pain rushes in and is overwhelming and tormenting.  The little control I’ve found has been in staying steadily in the pain (not getting out prematurely).  I am not always successful.  I have fallen into my wishful forgetting.  Ambushes are hard taskmasters.

He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
The thought of my suffering
and hopelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
the unfailing love of the Lord never ends!
By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.
Lamentations 3:13, 19-22

From the beginning, I knew that this was something I didn’t want to allow myself to forget.  Just coming out of denial has been so much work; not something I was able to control; a work I had to do in God’s timing and strength.  I am not certain I’ve even completely come out of it.

Remembering while dreaming has taken even longer.  Over a year of having to remember afresh the horrible truth when I woke every morning to even now teaching myself to recognize and seize the moments I get to hold Joel in my dreams; choosing to find joy in the midst of my nightmares.

The fight to remember who Joel was… what he was like… what he would say.. what he would do… has been the hardest.  The pain of losing him is so great that it has blocked out and weighed down the joy of remembering him. The good memories come floating by in dark bits and pieces.  I have only tiny scattered pieces in my possession.  I miss him so much… his sweet presence, his laughter, his ways.

If I allow myself to forget all I’ve been through, I won’t be useful to those whose loss is fresh. I have forgotten so many other things; allowed myself to become useless in other ways to the hurting and the broken.  This I don’t want to forget.  I want to know God’s ways; to understand the path we need to take between the horrible grief to living by God’s grace and strength.

I want to remember the “awful time” of grief and the path to hope in the unfailing love of the Lord that never ends.  I want to remember the truth of my brokenness and the strength God is giving me in the midst of it.  I want to become “mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.”  I want to be equipped and ready to comfort others with the comfort that I have received.  I want to remember and to learn while daring to hope.

Love,

Jenny

 

Guard Your Heart

This is the one verse that God gave me for my kids; the one bit of wisdom He gave me to pass down.  I wrote out what it means to me for all the graduates we know this year… including our own Josh, who is due to graduate from college this December. 🙂  We are proud of you and love you all.

Guard your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
Proverbs 4:23

Guard it with humility.
Guard it by abiding in His love.
Guard it by praying all the time.
Guard it by forgiving and loving others.
Guard it by giving thanks in every situation.
Guard it by casting your cares on Him because He cares for you.
Guard it with daily Bible study… (even if it’s just a verse or two).
Guard it with the fullness of joy found only in His presence.
Guard it with His gift of peace that passes understanding.
Guard it with the strong and sure hope of Heaven.

Guard it because it’s the most important thing you own.  Out of it comes words of life or death (depending on how well you guard it) with the potential of profoundly effecting the lives of those around you (for good or for evil)… profoundly effecting the direction of your own life here on earth and your life in Heaven.  When your heart is wounded by your own sin or someone else’s, begin again… Guard your heart!… with humility… love.. prayer… forgiveness… thanksgiving… etc.

Praying God’s grace and love will complete it’s perfect work in you. Ephesians 3:16-17

Love,

Jenny

Better is One Day

Happy Birthday, Joel!

We are celebrating that you are enjoying all the blessings of Heaven while missing your sweet, fun presence here with us today and everyday.

We are learning to:

Rejoice in Hope,
The hope of Heaven
bought by our Redeemer;
That we are but grass;
That these long, hard days
are but a blink of an eye
Then we will See you again,
Hold you in our arms, and
Dance with you on streets of gold.

Persevere in Suffering,
To count it all as loss
that we may know Christ
and His resurrection power;
as we share in His sufferings.
To run the race each day;
Push through the veil and
Obtain grace in our time of need
While you cheer us on.

Persist in Prayer. (Romans 12:12)
For strength in our inner being,
for hearts rooted in the love of Christ.
We wait, we are still, and we listen
for the Word and Light of life.
Waiting for and hasting the coming day.
According to His promise, we look
for a new heaven, and a new earth
where Righteousness dwells.

And where we’ll be able to dance and sing again with you…

Psalm 84
How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints.
for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out
and sing for joy to the living God.

Birds find nooks and crannies in Your house.
Sparrows and swallows make nests
where they may raise their young.
Near Your altar, O LORD Almighty,
My King and my God.

How blessed are all those
in whom Your presence dwells!
They are ever praising You.  Selah.

How blessed are those
whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways of Zion!

As they wind through dry valleys
refreshing springs start flowing;
Early rains cover them with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Till at last in Zion!  God in full view!

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Listen, O God of Jacob!  Selah.
Behold our shield, O God,
Our faces shining with your gracious anointing.

Better is one day in Your courts
than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God
than an honored guest in the tents of sin.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
Generous in grace and glory:
He doesn’t scrimp with His
traveling companions.
O LORD Almighty, How blessed
are those who trust in You!

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